BYD, the Chinese company that has emerged as the world’s biggest maker of electric vehicles, is releasing its first EV in Australia, in what is considered to be the most significant development in the local market since the release of the Tesla Model S.
The BYD E6 electric vehicle will initially charge hire-car and taxi fleets, although it will also make its EVs available to private buyers, according to the Caradvice website.
EV sales in Australia have been slow, with less than 1,000 sold before the end of 2014, although figures have since been boosted by the take-up of the Tesla Model S, which sells from around $140,000 and is now the top selling pure EV model in Australia.
The E6 will be distributed in Australia by transport logistics group Carbridge. CEO Luke Todd told CarAdvice that the Australian market has not yet warmed to auto brands out of China, but the BYD vehicle will submit for safety testing by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), and is confident of obtaining top marks.
BYD sold 62,000 EVs into the Chinese market in 2015 and plans to double that this year. China, which is actively encouraging EVs to reduce pollution, saw sales of 188,000 EVs last year.
BYD is 10 per cent owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
BYD founder and chief executive Wang Chuan-fu told RenewEconomy in January that he expects the global market for EVs to double in each of the next three years, although the company did not see itself as a competitor to Tesla.
“This is not about competiton. The market is so huge, it needs more people’s participation in the market. Tesla is targeting high end, there is a bit of an overlap, but we are focusing on electric cars and buses in different markets.”
BYD has cheaper models than the E6, but it is the only BYD model available in right hand drive.
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.